Dec 16, 2017

12 Current and Future Beefcake Stars of "Freaks and Geeks"

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) was a high school comedy-drama created by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow.  Although it won a lot of critical acclaim and regularly appears on "best tv" lists, it couldn't find an audience -- an hour long comedy that kept switching time slots, competing with Veronica's Closet, Ally McBeal, and Everybody Loves Raymond, then dumped to Saturday night?  18 episodes were produced, but only 12 were aired.  All 18 are now streaming on Netflix.

I find it derivative of 1980s high school nerd movies, complete with sneering bullies, sadistic teachers, and The Girl walking across the room in slow motion while every guy in the class stares at her in rapture.  Hetero-horniness is endemic; gay people do not exist.

And I have a lot of nit-picks:
1. It's Michigan, but always warm and sunny, even in winter.
2. Characters are introduced, then vanish, never to be seen or mentioned again.
3. The fundamentalist Christian girl crosses herself -- only Catholics do that.
4. And her church holds a dance -- fundamentalist Christians do not dance.
5. The time frames make no sense.  They go trick-or-treating for hours in broad daylight.  Lindsay goes to dinner at the Mean Girl's house, hours of plot time pass, and she goes home -- where her family is just sitting down to dinner.  Do they eat at 9:00 pm?

Still, the characters have an endearing quality, the 1980s references give me a nostalgic glow, and there is ample beefcake.

Here are the top 12 beefcake highlights:

The Freaks: a group of slackers and stoners (although they never mention pot).

1. Teddy bear Ken (Seth Rogen)

2. James Dean wannabe Danny (James Franco)

3. Aspiring musician Nick (Jason Segel).

If these three sound familiar, it's because they've been starring in each others' movies for 17 years.

Plus Mean Girl Kim (Busy Phillips) and focus character Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini)

The Geeks: a group of underdeveloped, non-athletic Star Wars fans:

4. Tall, thin, laconic Bill (Martin Starr).  He's still tall, thin, and laconic.

5. Jewish stereotype Neal (Samm Levine).  The hottest of the cast, then and now.

6. Prepubescent focus character Sam (John Francis Daley) was 18 at the time, although he could easily pass for 14.  He's grown up a lot since.

More after the break.

Dec 15, 2017

70 More Years of Archie Beefcake

For over 70 years, Archie Andrews and his pals and gals have been presenting an idealized portrait of the American teenager, with countless thousands of comic book stories, plus cartoons, tv series, radio series, movies, and songs.  Preteens look to Archie for a glimpse of their future, and adults, for a nostalgic look at their past.  And gay boys can find in Archie comics more shirtless and swimsuit-clad hunks than anywhere else in children's literature.

I wanted to see how Archie and the gang have changed over the years, becoming more and more buffed, more defined to meet the changing expectations of masculine beauty.


Archie is thin, even underdeveloped, with little attention to realism in his arms and shoulders.  He looks like a cartoon character.


Archie and Jughead appear in the Dan Montana house style, with some indication of pecs and maybe a line down the stomach to indicate abs.


When I was reading Archie comics as a kid, there was a lot more attention to the detail of pecs, shoulders, and biceps, particularly in the "muscle bound" Big Moose.


The guy's got a chest and abs, but no biceps.


A rather realistic Archie, with chest, abs and biceps.


Whoa, Reggie's got a 6-pack, plus shoulders, pecs, and biceps.  Of course, he's parodying the tv show Jersey Shore, but still, he's come a long way in 70 years.

Dec 14, 2017

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Born in September 1981, Jonathan Taylor Thomas (JTT) became a star at age 11 through Home Improvement (1991-1998), playing Randy, the middle son of macho tool-show host Tim Allen. He was passive and somewhat feminine, gay-coded yet indefatigably girl-crazy from the start, and careful to rebel against any hint that he might be gay.

In “Groin Pull” (October 1992), Randy is cast as Peter Pan in the school play.  First he is horrified because he must “prance” rather than fly: as his father states, “Men don’t prance.  We walk, we run, we skip if no one’s looking. . .but we never prance!”  Then he discovers that Peter Pan is generally played by a woman, and almost drops out of the play, before Dad confinces him that he can re-create the role as heterosexual, “a man’s man. . .a man with hair on his chest.”  And it works: Randy comes home after the performance and exclaims triumphantly, “I saw Jennifer looking at me!"

The pubescent Jonathan Taylor Thomas soon began to dominate the teen magazines.  There are literally thousands of pin-ups and centerfolds, far overwhelming those featuring the more muscular Zachery Ty Bryan, who played his older brother, or Taran Noah Smith, who played his younger brother, or their various hunky friends (such as Josh Blake of Alf).

. His character became a teen dream operator, intensely attractive to girls -- never to boys -- and intensely heterosexually active and aware.

But Randy was not content to be just another of the girl-crazy hunks who populated 1990s tv.  He often supported liberal causes, in opposition to his conservative father, and his episodes often drew the series into serious themes, such as Randy questioning his religion or facing a possible cancer diagnosis. When JTT left the series in 1998, it was explained that Randy had been accepted into a year-long environmental study program in Costa Rica.

In his other projects, JTT more than made up for the "every girl's fantasy" plotlines of his conservative tv series.  He enjoyed a buddy-bonding romance with Brad Renfro in Tom and Huck (1995), and with Devon Sawa in Wild America (1997).  He played a bisexual hustler in Speedway Junky (1999), opposite Jesse Bradford, and a gay teenager in Common Ground (2000).

2 gay/bi roles in two years!  The gay rumors came fast and furious, but JTT, like his character on Home Improvement, always denied them: he said he didn't mind, but they made his elderly grandmother upset.

He moved into voice work, guest starred on Smallville, and went to college, graduating from Columbia University in 2010 with a degree in history.

 In 2011, tv personality Lo Bosworth re-ignited the rumors by stating that he was gay on the Chelsea Lately program.

There's a sausage sighting story on Tales of West Hollywood

West Side Story: Stick to the East Side

When I was in high school, we had to read West Side Story in conjunction with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  They were even bound together, in the same book.  Plus the orchestra played highlights from the score.  So I got a double dose, and I hated every moment of it.

Was there ever anything more heterosexist?

It's about two rival gangs in New York City, the Jets (white) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican).  Tony, a retired member of the Jets, meets a girl named Maria, who happens to be the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.  Guess what happens?

Right.  The Jets hate Maria, the Sharks hate Tony, conflict, conflict, conflict, our love will triumph, fight at the gym, death, everybody's sad.

A flame of heteronormativity envelops songs like "Maria" and "One Hand, One Heart."

Plus all of the Jets and Sharks have girlfriends.  Every one of them.

The most you can hope for is the tiniest bit of chest-pounding, girl-chasing buddy-bonding between Tony and Riff (the leader of the Jets), and Bernardo and his right-hand man Chino.

Horrible.  Absolutely unwatchable.

Which is surprising, when you consider that the writer Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim were all gay (see Hello, Dolly! for another example).

And about half of the cast members.

There isn't even any beefcake: the high-stepping hunks never take off their shirts.  Not once.

The original Broadway musical starred Larry Kert (Tony), Carol Lawrence (Maria), Michael Callan (Riff), Ken Le Roy (Bernardo), Jamie Sanchez (Chino),

The 1961 movie starred Richard Beymer (Tony, left), Natalie Wood (Maria), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), and Jose de Vega (Chino).

Many other hunks have played Tony, such as Colt Prattes (top photo) and Matthew Cavenaugh.

Including some gay ones.

I can not figure out why.

See also: Leonard Bernstein's Mass; Michael Callan: A Gay Guy and His Pretend Wife.

Dec 12, 2017

Dorno of the Herculoids, Grown Up and Tied Up

These are The Herculoids, Zandor (middle), Tara (left), and Dorno (right), protectors of the planet Amzot in a Saturday morning cartoon series that ran 18 episodes from 1967 to 1969.  A few more episodes were aired in 1981-1982.

They were barbarians with sci-fi powers and a lot of cool pets: a space dragon; a giant ape; a rhinocerous with a laser cannon for horns; and two blob-beings.

Most episodes involved one of the three getting captured by Bird Men, Mole Men, Spider Men, Bubble Men, Electrode Men, Sun People, Crystallites, Reptons, Monkey People, and so on. 

Dorno, of course, ignores the orders to "stay here where it's safe" and either initiates the action or stumbles upon a way to perform a daring rescue.

Although it's been 35 years since we saw any new episodes, the Herculoids have not been forgotten. They've appeared on Harvey Birdman and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and in various comic books, including DC Comics' Future Quest (2016).

And there's a lot of fan art of Dorno tied and threatened.

Usually he's aged into young adulthood and buffed up a bit, to appeal to adult sensibilities.

Sometimes he is threatened by villains from the show, and sometimes by new characters.  There's a whole series of Dorno fighting Freddie Kruger.

Here Jonny Quest and Hadji gang up on the barbarian hero.

Jonny and Dorno have some romantic moments, too.

But there's not much time for romance when every monster, pirate, and villain in the galaxy wants a piece of you.

And the rule in the Villain's Code about hurting kids no longer applies.

All pictures are copyrighted by their respective owners on

See also: Saturday Morning Muscle

Dec 11, 2017

Cheers: Where Nobody Knows Your Name

In the mid-1980s, Americans were afraid.  We had a crazy president who wanted to start a nuclear war (not as crazy as the Orange Goblin, though). People thought that AIDS could be transmitted through drinking water and mosquitoes.  Unemployment was as high as during the Depression, the violent crime rate higher than ever before in history.

 No wonder people wanted to go to a place "where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came."

Cheers (1982-93) was must-see tv, as in all your relatives and everybody at work talked about it constantly, so you had no choice but to watch.

The premise: Sam Malone (Ted Danson) flopped as a ball player due to his alcoholism, so he opens a bar in Boston (really?) and begins love-hate sniping with his stuck-up Ivy-League grad student barmaid Diane (Shelley Long), and later with neurotic bar manager Rebecca (Kirstie Alley).

Other cast members included earthy barmaid Carla (Rhea Pearlman), dimwitted bartender Coach (Nicholas Colassanto), replaced after the actor's death by Woody (Woody Harrelson), and two bar patrons, the rotund Norm (George Wendt) and the talkative Cliff (John Ratzenberger).

In spite of the theme song,  no one knew any gay names.

Gay patrons came to the bar in only one episode.  The gang sees two metrosexual guys talking and laughing, thinks they're gay, and is about ready to string them up, when Diane reveals that the real gay guys, two bears, have been masquerading as part of the mob.

Carla is particularly homophobic.  "If they keep coming out of the closet, there won't be any men left, and I'll have to. . .ugh!" she says, imagining sex with Diane.

Not only is the bar gay-free, there aren't any significant homoerotic subtexts.  Cliff and Norm are buddies, but reject any hint of affection.  The female characters seem as boy- crazy as Betty and Veronica in Archie comics: Carla has a dozen kids with many different men; Diane leaves two men at the altar; Rebecca has an unrequited golddigger crush on a millionaire.

Sam was the hunk of the series -- Ted Danson even posed for Playgirl (not nude) -- and two other male cast members warranted gazing.

 1. Woody (before Woody Harrelson, left, got craggy and redneck).

2. Hockey player Eddie (radio personality Jay Thomas, previously seen on Mork and Mindy), Carla's love interest for a season.  But since almost all of the action occurred on two sets, the bar and Sam's office, there was little opportunity for disrobing, thus no beefcake.

Not a lot of gay allies in the cast.  Kirstie Alley was rather aggressive in "defending" John Travolta from the "insult" of gay rumors. Ted Danson and Woody Harrelson have both played swishy gay stereotype.

In 1993, stuffy psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) spun off onto his own series, Frasier, which lasted for another 11 years.

Dec 10, 2017

11 Reasons John Smith Was Probably Gay

Not the animated Pilgrim of Pocahontas, the beefcake actor fondly remembered by the first generation of Baby Boomers as the star of Laramie (1959-63). 

1. He was a shy, sensitive, artistic child.  He appeared in the choir in Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945).

2. He signed on with casting agent Henry Willson, who single-handedly started the beefcake fad of the 1950s.  Willson filled studios with gay, bi, and gay-for-pay hunks: Ty Hardin, Rock Hudson, John Saxon, Dack Rambo, Farley Granger. His all-male Sunday afternoon parties were legendary.

Wilson also named him "John Smith."  Rather a serious lack of creativity.

3. Laramie aired on Tuesday nights amid a profusion of Westerns, it is distinctive for the strong gay subtext between the two cowboys, Slim (John Smith) and Jess (Robert Fuller).

4. It also starred Spring Byington, a lesbian actress who is best known for the sitcom December Bride.  Not a romantic interest for either of the male characters.

More after the break

Brokeback Mountain for the 1950s: Laramie

Fifty years before Brokeback Mountain and twenty years before Zachariah, the tv Western Laramie gave us a portrait of two cowboys in love.

Shortly after the Civil War, Slim Sherman (played by an actor with the regrettably anonymous name John Smith) and his teenage brother Andy (Bobby Crawford) run a ranch and a stagecoach relay station in Wyoming Territory.  A hunky drifter, Jess Harper (Robert Fuller) comes to town and draws Andy's attention (for obvious reasons).   

Robert Fuller and Bobby Crawford also became friends in real life, and were often seen in Hollywood hotspots together.

But Slim found his own romantic intentions stymied, so after the first season he shipped Andy off to boarding school so he could have Jess to himself.  After that they were blatantly physical, emotionally intense partners. Not even the third-season addition of Spring Byington as single mother Daisy Cooper could detract from their gay subtext.

They were unusual among 1950s cowboys for their occasional shirtless and undewear shots on-screen (as opposed to just in the muscle magazines), thus enhancing the homoerotic gaze.

John Smith was one of talent agent Henry Willson's stable of gay and gay-friendly 1950s hunks (others included Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter), so he may have been gay or bisexual, though of course he never made any public statements.

He had a long career in Westerns and actioners where his shirt had to come off, including The Women of Pitcairn Island (1956), Cimarron City (1958-59), Island of Lost Women (1959), and Hondo (1967). 

Robert Fuller was one of the movie magazine hunks of the 1950s, eagerly photographed when he was seen in public with either men or women (he was married twice).  After Laramie, he had starring roles on Wagon Train, The Big Valley, Emergency!, Guns of Paradise, and Walker: Texas Ranger.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...